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Set in a more familiar setting for American audiences, and boasting a familiar cast, The Good Girl stars Jennifer Aniston as Justine, a convenience store clerk who is disillusioned with her marriage to a deadbeat husband. With a young coworker (Jake Gylenhaal of Donnie Darko and October Sky), she faces the temptation to begin an illicit affair. Faced with nothing but troubling choices, what's a minimum wage suburbanite to do?
Anne Navarro (Catholic News) concludes, "The Good Girl is not good for everyone. Probing into the underbelly of selfish human behavior, it offers in return just a glimmer of hope. Justine ends up hurting those around her, but the one sensible decision she does make gives her a second chance at reclaiming her shattered life. Ultimately, [this] is a story of unchecked passion which veers off on a serious tangent before righting itself for the film's faux happy ending." While critical of the story's resolution, Navarro adds, "The role marks a risky departure for Aniston, and she does very well playing against her familiar type."
Mainstream press critics are generally impressed with the film's style and storytelling. But some debate the merits of Aniston's performance. Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly) says, "The Good Girl is a false drama anchored by two big lies. One is that working in an average, everywhere-in-America discount mart inevitably kills the soul, and anyone with more intelligence and self-regard than a cow would do well to get … out from behind the cash register. The other is that Jennifer Aniston bravely liberates herself from her glamorous Friends shackles by playing … a frumpy and disgruntled Retail Rodeo employee."
from Film Forum, 08/22/02
Film Forum presented early reviews of The Good Girl last week. This week, Jennifer Aniston continues to impress and distress religious media critics as they ponder the moral dilemmas and messy relationships in this independent drama.
Paul Bicking (Preview) reports, "The film explores some difficult issues such as adultery and reconciliation as well as showing the character's self-evaluation along the way." But he complains of graphic sexual encounters and explicit sexual discussions that degrade the story.
Tom Snyder (Movieguide) writes, "Christians, not to mention people from West Texas, should sue the filmmakers … for defamation of character." He argues that the film gives the impression "that all Christians and all men are fools, especially if they come from a small town in West Texas."
Mainstream critics continued to debate the film's merits. Ebert declares, "Jennifer Aniston has at last decisively broken with her Friends image in an independent film of satiric fire and emotional turmoil. It will no longer be possible to consider her in the same way." He also praises director Miguel Arteta and writer Mike White: "They know how much satire and exaggeration is enough but not too much, so that in a subterranean way their movies work on serious levels while seeming to be comedies."